Weekly Feature

2014-06-25 / Front Page

Lapp-Reigel farm a reminder of town’s agricultural heritage


The barn located on the Bishop Lapp-Reigel farmstead in Clarence has stood off Greiner Road since the 1830s. The barn located on the Bishop Lapp-Reigel farmstead in Clarence has stood off Greiner Road since the 1830s. Tucked away on about 14 acres of farmland off Greiner Road, the Bishop Lapp-Reigel farmstead, with its scenic countryside vistas surrounding the main house and signature Pennsylvania German style barn, has been a fixture in Clarence since the 1830s.

The farm was established by Bishop John Lapp, a founder of the Mennonite Church in New York State, and at its peak, encompassed 145 acres. Regarded as one of the most well-preserved examples of this region’s agricultural heritage by preservationists and historical experts alike, it functioned as a productive farm until as recently as 1996.

As the approved Northwoods subdivision begins to take shape on most of the land that surrounds the farmstead, people are coming forward to advocate on behalf of preserving the rural character and historical significance that the Lapp-Reigel farm has for Clarence. And if plans are realized, the town’s Historic Preservation Committee hopes to see the property someday land in the hands of someone willing to ensure it remains a fixture in town forever.

“If someone would buy this to preserve and turn it into a nationally registered historical landmark, it would qualify for that,” said HPC Chairwoman Linda Mosher. “Then if they found some adaptive reuse to turn it into a tourist attraction, that would be absolutely fabulous.”

Mosher said she could envision the location becoming a spring-summer-fall wedding destination or educational center about agriculture. The land is currently owned by Ismet Hallac, and the HPC is hoping he will submit paperwork to identify the property as a registered historical landmark.

“We have a policy of not forcing landmarks on anyone, so we have kind of been waiting on Dr. Hallac,” Mosher said. “The number one choice would be for a historic minded person to buy it. Number two would be for the town or county or state to buy it and develop it as a historic resource, but we all know funding is really tight.

“It’s really a one-of-a-kind to have not only the barn, but also the main house and most of the outbuildings — the chicken coops and the pig pens. It’s incredible to have all of that still intact here where you can use that as a teaching moment to show people the history of our town and our nation.”

Hallac has not indicated that the property is for sale, but according to Mosher, has been very welcoming to the HPC and its suggestion of further preservation efforts.

HPC member Carol Conwall has been a champion of seeing the farmstead preserved and was in attendance at a Town Board meeting last month to challenge Northwoods’ layout design, as it would have significantly altered the view of the farm from Greiner Road.

“Having lived in Clarence all my life, I have watched our agricultural heritage dwindle away to sprawling housing developments,” Conwall said. “Within the past few months, it became apparent that there needs to be an emphasis placed on a last-ditch effort to preserve however much is left of the vista view of the Bishop Lapp farmstead and barn in relationship to Northwoods.”

Conwall’s efforts and others’ eventually led Northwoods developer Cimato Bros. Construction Inc. to adjust the design and move two of the lots to open up the vista. Acknowledging that development is inevitable and not a bad thing, Conwall said she hopes people will come forward with creative ideas for an adaptive reuse of the farmstead and suggested looking to other area landmarks and what they have done.

In the meantime, Mosher hopes that Hallac will pursue the historical landmark designation as the town watches Northwoods spring up from the land surrounding the barn and farmhouse.

“When we look at [candidates for historical designation], we look at the architecture, we look at the people involved and how well intact it is, and this meets all of that criteria,” Mosher said. “There are some really cool historical things here.”

email: sjagord@beenews.com

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